Written by Rupert Guinness/RSHYR Media
Photography by Kurt Arrigo & Salty Dingo
28 December 2023
The Juan-K 100 (ex-InfoTrack, Speedboat/Rambler/Perpetual Loyal) crossed the Castray Esplanade finish line in Hobart at 08.03.58am this morning in the time of 1 day 19 hours 03 minutes 58 seconds
The John Winning Jnr skippered Andoo Comanche held the upper hand for most of the 628 nautical mile race, but LawConnect was always there and overtook her at one point.
Early this morning there was little between the two and once again the Derwent sealed both boats fates, as a light, light breeze, teased and cajoled concentrating crews in an absolute thriller to the finish line.
Christian Beck’s yacht finished well outside the race record of 1 day 9hrs 15min 24 sec, set by the boat they beat today, which sailed as LDV Comanche to line honours victory in 2017 by her then owners, Jim Cooney and Samantha Grant.
It did not matter though. Only 51 seconds separated LawConnect and Andoo Comanche at the end, in the second closest finish in the history of the race.
The closest was in 1982 when Condor beat Apollo over the line by seven seconds.
“I can’t believe that result. Honestly. It’s a dream come true. I never thought it was possible, actually,” said a smiling Beck after LawConnect docked at Kings Pier in Hobart. “Because they took the lead pretty close to the finish line, we thought there’s no way we could get it back,” Beck said.
“But a wind gust came. It happened. So, it was a complete surprise, to be honest.”
Asked how the nerves of his crew were in the dying minutes of the race, Beck said: “There were guys who sort of couldn’t watch it and stuff like that. It was very nerve wracking.”
Beck said his joy of winning this year was heightened after falling short in previous years.
The boat’s run of misfires dates back to before his second place in the last three races.
Beck first raced the boat, but as InfoTrack, in the 2017 Hobart, after buying it the from Anthony Bell, who had sailed it to line honours victory in a race record time as Perpetual Loyal in 2016.
It was the fourth of five boats to finish inside Bell’s record, but received a 20 percent penalty placing when a crew member failed to lodge a declaration at the finish, dropping the boat to 24th place. In 2018, Beck returned and placed fourth over the line.
“It does make you appreciate it more,” said Beck, adding that he would return next year.
LawConnect’s win against the highly favoured Andoo Comanche was against the odds. Equally as amazing though, was how their duel ended in such a close match-racing battle.
After stalking Andoo Comanche all night, it initially looked like LawConnect’s chances were slipping away, as the defending champions got a 2nm lead in the crossing of Storm Bay.
But LawConnect’s crew did not give up and edged closer to Andoo Comanche on the Derwent River. By Sandy Bay and with 1.5nm to go, LawConnect had all but caught the leader.
Then, in a brilliant slugfest of jibes between the two boats, the lead changed five times as they both tried to make best of the varying but light breezes.
LawConnect only sealed the victory with its last jibe less than 50 metres before the finish.
After finishing, and as is tradition, Beck was thrown into the water off King Pier by his crew. They then celebrated the win and receipt of the J.H. Illingworth Challenge Cup by spraying themselves with champagne.
Beck lauded his crew, especially Sailing Master, Tony Mutter and tactician, Chris Nicholson.
“There’s two guys that were really instrumental, Tony Multter and Chris Nicholson,” he said. “They have a lot to contend with. Firstly, the boat, I jokingly call a ‘s… box.’ But compared to Comanche, it honestly is a ‘s…box. I know it looks good on TV, but you get up close to that boat and it’s as rough as anything.
“Comanche is a beautiful boat. It’s better in every way. It’s four times lighter, etc. So, the fact that they can make that boat beat Comanche is amazing.
“Secondly, they had a pretty lean budget. And thirdly, they had the five corporates, including me, on the boat to deal with. None of us know all that much about sailing.
“So, to have all of that and still win the race, it’s an incredible feat.”